If the Celtics-Clippers trade is indeed dead – and like Kurt, I have my doubts – the offseason doesn’t get any easier for the Celtics. Boston is obviously ready to move on from Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, at least if it nets a certain combination of DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and first-round picks and the removal of Jason Terry or Courtney Lee.
But has bringing back Rivers and Garnett become preferable to the next alternative, whatever that is?
This trade could have determined the Celtics’ entire direction as a franchise. Now, Boston must regroup and evaluate its course. Persuade Rivers, who’s obviously leery of rebuilding, to come back? Convince Garnett, who’s considering retirement, to make another run? Keep Pierce, trade him or buy out his partially guaranteed contract?
The catalyst seems to be Rivers, and the Celtics are making their preference clear. Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe:
That’s a risky choice, because Rivers could face difficulties coaching players who just received a clear indicator Rivers doesn’t want to coach them. But he’s also a highly respected coach whose best attribute is building relationships with his players.
Of course, Rivers also has a say in whether he’ll coach the Celtics next season. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
After talks in a blockbuster deal fall apart over draft pick compensation, Doc Rivers is unsure about returning to the Boston Celtics as coach, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday.
The Celtics and Rivers planned to reach a final resolution in the next few days, sources said.
As one source tied to Boston ownership and Rivers said, “You don’t just move on from this and act like nothing happened.”
If Rivers returns, the Celtics should probably push for Garnett and Pierce to return. Once Rajon Rondo gets healthy, that’s likely a team still capable of winning a playoff series, and that would be a fairly satisfying season. Rebuilding can always wait a year.
If Rivers sits out next season, hoping Garnett retires from his big contract and then buying out or trading Pierce might become a better plan. That would give the Celtics flexibility to rebuild around Rondo and Jeff Green, but that plan would work work much better with DeAndre Jordan and an extra first-round draft pick in tow.
That’s why the Celtics have incentive to re-engage the Clipper in trade talks. The alternatives without it just aren’t as appealing and will require some difficult decisions.